As I write this article, the 2022-23 whitetail hunting season is just about done, except for MLDP permit holders. As expected, it was a challenging season for sure, but there were bright spots to be had. Many first-time hunters took to the fields this year with eyes wide open and plenty excited. Older hunters knew the impact of the drought would be felt, and it was, but they donned their favorite camo and headed out. Feed manufacture companies had one of their best years ever because of the February freeze and spring to summer drought. Habitats remained stressed until rains eventually arrived in August and September just prior to the start of hunting season. October was very difficult hunting as deer spread out with the new lush vegetation and abundant water sources throughout the pastures.
The season started slowly for most but when the trophy bucks were found, they were butterball fat and supporting impressive headgear—at least on those bucks that dominated the supplemental feeders and made it through the drought. For those less dominant bucks and those properties not consistently managed, it was indeed tough. Fawn production and antler quality, generally speaking, were down across the board and bucks were not able to realize their full genetic potential. But hunters hunted and had a great time and understood what was at hand. So to summarize the season this year, it would have to be called “Sporadic”! Some ranches had very good results while others did not. Habitat condition, water reliability and distribution, supplemental feeding, predator control and buck age structure all played large parts in the success--or lack thereof--this hunting season.
For those properties hitting on all cylinders, it was a productive and eventful year with some fine trophies harvested. For those that did not see good success, use this year as a teaching experience. Drought is common and should be anticipated, so landowners, managers and hunters should plan for it, expect it and prepare for it. If your deer season did not go well this year, what can you improve on from the requirements mentioned above so that it won’t happen again? What can you fix, improve upon, expand and enhance to better fit the needs of the deer all twelve months of the year? Deer hunting is only a few months per year, but deer management is twelve months a year.
If you want to ensure you have a great hunt next fall, consider hunting on any of the Bird Dog preferred ranches shown on their site and book early. Great ranches work year around to ensure their deer have everything required to realize their full genetic potential and Bird Dog is proud of the relationships we have with world class operations. Book early for next year, be as prepared as you can be and I hope to find you around one of the fire rings next fall so that we can visit more and talk about deer!
Wildlife Biologist & Owner of Spring Creek Outdoors